Lake Waiau

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Lake Waiau
Lake Waiau2.jpg
Location Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Coordinates 19°48′40″N 155°28′39″W / 19.811248°N 155.477374°W / 19.811248; -155.477374Coordinates: 19°48′40″N 155°28′39″W / 19.811248°N 155.477374°W / 19.811248; -155.477374
Basin countries United States
Surface elevation 13,020 ft (3,970 m)

Lake Waiau is a high-elevation lake located at 13,020 feet (3970 m) above sea level on Mauna Kea, on the island of Hawaiʻi. It is arguably the seventh highest lake in the USA [1] (higher than Lake Titicaca), and one of very few lakes at all in the state of Hawaiʻi. It is relatively small, only about 100 m across, and varies in size as the water level rises and falls. At high water levels a small outlet stream appears at the northwest end, but it is absorbed into the ground after a short distance. The name means "swirling water" in Hawaiian, though it is usually rather placid. It usually freezes in winter, but aquatic insects such as midges and beetles can be found breeding in the water.

Since 2010 the lake has shrunk significantly and in September 2013 the diameter was only 15 m.[2]


According to Hawaiian mythology, Lake Waiau was bottomless and was the portal for spirits to travel to and from the spirit world. In ancient time, a chief would throw the umbilical cord of their first son, as soon as it fell off the infant, into the lake. It was to reserve the place for the child's afterlife as a chief. Rituals are still performed occasionally in present days. Lake Waiau is a sacred site. Visitors should not disturb, enter or drink the water of the lake.



Further reading[edit]

  • Jane Ellen Massey: Lake Waiau: A Study of a Tropical Alpine Lake, Past and Present. University of Hawaii Press, 1978